Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tips for NaNoWriMo

This month, we participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). My goal was to write 50,000 words in 30 days. So far, I'm at 43,000, with five days left. I've learned some valuable things about writing in general, and especially for NaNoWriMo. I'm not sure yet, but I think this might be my way to write. The focus was on writing flow; writing things down at a fast pace as they entered my head. The language is awful, the style is awful, and everything else, I'm sure is pure awful. But in Dec, I'll have a good skeleton of a novel, and I can begin the editing process. Here are some things I learned about noveling this month:
  • Don't re-read what you've written. (If you need to read the last 1-2 sentences in order to remember where you left off, then go ahead. But reading a whole page, with its errors and poor writing skills is really a discouragement!)
  • Keep the writing flow happening. When I couldn't think of a name this month, I wrote (Name). Example: (Name) said "Hello, there!"
  • Same thing with words. When I couldn't think of a word, I wrote (word). Example: The quick (word) fox jumped over the (word) brown dog. [We all know the first word would be "red" and the second word would be "lazy", but what if I couldn't remember at the time? Fill in those unknowns with a generic word place holder]
  • Save the thesaurus for another day. For this month, use the same boring word over and over and over again. Example: He was happy. She felt really happy. Later on, they found that they were both very happy. (After Nanowrimo, I can change all those happies to something else - ecstatic? joyful? slightly glad?
  • Now is not the time for research. Is it faster to swim through syrup than water? Save the Mythbusters type research for before or after the month of Nanowrimo. In the meantime, live dangerously by writing what you think will happen, without worrying about whether its scientifically plausible. After all, there's an awful lot of action-suspense movies that would be terribly boring if it had to all work out scientifically.
  • I struggled with clever characters. I'm not clever. How can I make clever characters? I discovered that if I make my other characters rather dumb, then my clever characters look very bright in comparison:) Same thing can happen with other characteristics: a pretty character/make everyone else ugly, a cheerful character/make everyone else grumpy.
  • Go extreme. I've never exaggerated people before, or their situations, but this can be fun! Make it obvious. Name the hairy guy "Harry". Name the freckly guy "John Frecklestein". Is your character a clutz? Have them fall over something dramatically on every page. Have fun with it. It seems over the top, but it actually works out well in stories.
  • Skip over things. This is one thing I didn't do so well in my novel. Unfortunately, when my character woke up, ate breakfast, and then did something exciting, I said all of it. I could've just skipped to the exciting part. To heck with breakfast (who needs it?) - even if your character needs breakfast, it doesn't mean you need to write about it...Unless...
  • If breakfast IS important, then DO mention it. Afterall, if we didn't routinely read about the Hobbits sitting down for yet another meal, we'd be missing out on an important aspect of Bilbo Baggins. So the choice is yours: put breakfast in or leave it out?
  • Tell, don't show; or do both. I've always heard the "show, don't tell" in reference to writing. If your character eats many breakfasts, you'd "show" it by making it something that comes up in the storyline. What your character does reveals who they are. But for Nanowrimo, I put this rule aside. Sometimes I just simply said "he eats a lot of breakfasts. And look, he just ate another one." Is it good story telling? No. But it made a good place holder for my skeletal story. Later, I can determine if all the breakfast eating is worth keeping and maybe add in some showing. I didn't put in a lot of description this year, and the description I did put in was pretty lame. But I can dress it up later, right?
  • After NaNoWriMo is the time to edit. So that's when you can delve into your words, tearing, ripping, criticizing, changing, erasing, rewriting, researching and pulling in that thesaurus. Until then, just go with the flow.

1 comment:

MICHELE said...

THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH SARAH!!! I'll print this off and USE your advice.